, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 269–277 | Cite as

A culture system for the live analysis of successive developmental processes and the morphological control of mammalian vertebral cartilage

Original Research


The mesoderm-derived segmental somite differentiates into dermomyotome and sclerotome, the latter of which undergoes vertebrogenesis to spinal cartilage and ultimately to vertebral bones. However, analysis and manipulation of the developing mammalian vertebrae in the same embryo has been infeasible because of their placental-dependent embryogenesis. Here, we report a novel culture system of the mouse embryonic tailbud, by which the developmental processes of mammalian vertebral cartilage are traceable and manipulatable in the same sample. The anaplastic segmental somites/sclerotomes in the tailbud of 13 gestational day (g.d.) embryo that are structurally continuous to the vertebral column underwent progressive vertebrogenesis when (1) the ectoderm-derived nascent epidermis was microsurgically removed prior to cultivation, and (2) the sample was incubated at the air-medium interface. After cultivation for 5 days, the size and shape of the instructed vertebral cartilage showed features comparable to well-differentiated body vertebra along with the expression of the cartilage marker collagen type II, suggesting that aggressive differentiation of the sclerotomal cell lineage was achieved. In the presence of recombinant bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and Noggin, or adenoviral particles for extracellular epimorphin, dramatic alteration of the vertebral morphology ensued in the explants. Thus, this model system provides an approach to study the detailed molecular mechanisms of mammalian vertebrogenesis and enables pretreatment strategies of precartilagious fragments for improving the efficacy of subsequent transplantation.


Vertebrogenesis Live analysis Cartilage Epimorphin Organ culture Morphogenesis 



We are grateful to Dr. Bascom for the critical reading of the manuscript and to all members of the Hirai laboratory for helpful discussions. Part of this work was supported by Hyogo COE Program Promotion Project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bioscience, School of Science and TechnologyKwansei Gakuin UniversitySandaJapan

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